A look back at Bristol

A 24-year-old crew chief, back in 1972, crossed over the track at Bristol through a gate in turn two. Bristol International Speedway, as it was known then, did not have the present day acute banked corners or the towering grandstands. A native of...

A 24-year-old crew chief, back in 1972, crossed over the track at Bristol through a gate in turn two. Bristol International Speedway, as it was known then, did not have the present day acute banked corners or the towering grandstands. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, the young crew chief did not have the wisdom he now possesses, almost 30 years later. David Ifft, crew chief for the KODAK MAX Film Chevrolet, entered the track that day to help guide Bud Moore's team to a victory. Although they did not visit the winner's circle, he helped lead driver Bobby Isaac to a second place finish. "I remember going into the track and running against Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough. About a year and a half later, we led the entire race with Buddy Baker behind the wheel. We were down to the final few laps and Cale Yarborough came up behind Baker and nudged him right into the wall. We lost and we were not happy about it," Ifft recalls. "Then in 1979, I worked with Benny Parsons. Benny had a bad neck, I believe it was a pinched nerve. Bristol was always hard on his neck and made it difficult for him to finish the race. So Barry Dodson and I made a type of head and neck rest that came around the sides of the seat. We were not sure if NASCAR would allow it, so we waited until we were buckling Benny into the car, right before the race, and bolted the contraption onto the seat," Ifft remembers with a chuckle. "Soon after, everyone was using the addition to the seat for safety purposes, to help keep the head in place. I guess they thought we used it for safety, but we just were trying to help ole Benny out. We wanted him to be comfortable in the car." The veteran crew chief explains when they tested or practiced at Bristol, they had a substitute driver on hand , just in case Benny's neck gave him too much trouble. Benny suggested Ifft call a driver who only raced in about 10 races a year at the time. Ifft asked Benny why he chose this particular driver to stand-by and he replied the driver was going to be real big one day. The driver that Parsons had enough confidence in to step into his race car, if needed, was Bill Elliott. "We used to take our worse cars to race at Bristol. Darlington followed Bristol back then. Teams wanted to save their "good" cars to take to Darlington," the 52-year-old comments. "Teams only had about four or five cars back then and we only took one race car to the track. There wasn't any of this back-up car stuff back then. I would always change out the Daytona car and take it to Bristol. Somehow it worked out. "Bristol is the same track it was since they cemented it back in 1992. All of these tracks are the same. They have not changed much over the years, other than cosmetic changes. The cars have changed and drivers have changed, but we still race the same tracks we did back then. They are the same beasts we tried to tame back then. I like playing race strategy at places like Bristol. Race day strategies and chassis are where I shine as a crew chief. Playing the competition on race day and figuring strategies against racetracks is what makes this job such a challenge. "I feel good about going to Bristol. It creates so much excitement. I have a good record there and Morgan-McClure has a good record there. So Larry and I are putting our heads together to try to have a good run in front of our team's home crowd. We would like to celebrate Bristol's 40th anniversary with a home team win. Morgan-McClure won their first race there 11 years ago and I know how important it is to Larry and to Kodak to win there again. This is our home track and we need to have a good showing for all of those that support this team," Ifft said.

-Morgan-McClure Motorsports

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Richard Petty , Benny Parsons , Buddy Baker , Cale Yarborough